2020 New York Yankees
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2020 New York Yankees / Franchise: New York Yankees / BR Team Page
Clinched Wild Card: September 20, 2020
Managed by Aaron Boone
History, Comments, Contributions
After the storied team had just completed its first decade without a World Series appearance since the 1910s, the 2020 New York Yankees were on a mission to put an end to that uncharacteristic drought. They were coming off back-to-back 100-win seasons, and had come up just one home run short of setting a new all-time record in 2019, hitting 306 while the Minnesota Twins hit 307. All of their big hitters were back, except for the now supernumerary Didi Gregorius, and they added to an already strong pitching staff by signing Gerrit Cole to a record-setting free agent contract. Yet for all their success in 2019, health had been an issue, and when spring training started in 2020, there were still plenty of health concerns, particularly around their twin giant sluggers, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. They were thus one of the teams that clearly benefited from the disruption caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, as the delayed start of the season allowed everyone to get healthy, and they were at full strength when hostilities were ready to start in late July.
The Yankees had been designated to play the season's opening game against the defending World Series champions, the Washington Nationals, on July 23rd. They quickly showed their colors when Stanton hit a two-run tape-measure homer off Max Scherzer in the 1st inning, and Cole allowed just one hit in pitching a rain-shortened complete game in a 4-1 win. After a loss in their second game two days later, they got hot, winning their next seven games. During that stretch, Judge homered in five straight games as he took an early lead in the major league home run race and they scored at least 5 runs in six straight games. They were one of the teams affected by the Miami Marlins' COVID-19 outbreak, as a series they were originally slated to play against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park was cancelled and then replaced with two games at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, taking advantage of the Baltimore Orioles also having been forced into idleness. On August 5th, they lost only their second game when they lost the opener of a doubleheader to the Phillies, but they then won the nitecap to improve to 9-2. In the second game, a 3-1 win, Luke Voit homered, giving the Yankees at least one long ball in each of their first 11 games, a new team record. With the various changes to the rules adopted in this unprecedented season, the doubleheader consisted of two seven-inning games, with the Yankees being the home team in the first game and the Phils taking on the role in the second, even though both games were played in Philly. At the end of that day, the Yankees had a record of 9-2 and a four-game lead in the AL East.
The Yankees continued to win for the next while and on August 17th, after a four-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox, once a nemesis but transformed into harmless patsies this season, they were at 16-6 with a lead of 2 1/2 games. However, there were starting to be some hiccups. One after the other, Stanton, Judge and D.J. LeMahieu had to go on the injured list, and while their substitutes were decent, the absence of the three big hitters began to be felt just as the Tampa Bay Rays were getting hot. They had beaten the Yanks three out of four games in a series in St. Petersburg at the beginning of the month, and now did the unthinkable as they swept them in three games in the Bronx. It was the first time the Yankees had lost a home series to any team since the second week of the previous season! Thus, at the end of the day on August 20th, the Yankees had fallen into second place for the first time all year, a half game behind the Rays. The losing streak eventually reached 7 games before they finally beat the New York Mets, 2-1, on August 29th, in LeMahieu's first game back from the injured list. They continued to flounder for a while, falling to third place behind the Toronto Blue Jays on September 6th and bottoming out at 21-21 with a loss against the Jays two days later. Other players returned over the next few days, including Stanton and Judge, and while they were not the ones carrying the team, the Yankees were once again unstoppable, they won their next seven games, including back-to-back wins over Toronto by scores of 20-6 and 11-2 on September 15-16. In those two games, they set a team record by hitting six or more homers in consecutive games, and 13 over the two days. Voit hit three long balls to take sole possession of the major league lead with 19, LeMahieu hit two in the second game while raising his batting average to .373, and back-up catcher Kyle Higashioka had a three-homer game. Meanwhile, the starting pitching was now excellent as well, with rookie Deivi Garcia showing great promise in winning the first game, and Cole registering his 6th win in the second. They completed the three-game sweep on September 17th with a 10-6 win that featured another 6 long balls, including 5 off Chase Anderson in the 4th, three of them on consecutive pitches. That tied a major league record, and they set new records with at least 6 homers in three straight games, and 19 in a three-game series, obliterating the previous mark of 16. Voit hit his 20th, become the first major leaguer to reach the mark that season.
They reached 10 straight wins with an 8-0 win over the Red Sox on September 19th, behind a great effort by J.A. Happ, who had struggled early on but was now battling the rookie Garcia for the third starter designation behind aces Cole and Masahiro Tanaka. Their magic number to clinch a postseason slot was down to 1. Their winning streak ended with a 10-2 loss to the Red Sox on September 22nd, but they punched their ticket to the postseason that same day, their 22nd time in the last 26 years.
Awards and Honors
- Pete Caldera: "New York Yankees players deciding whether to leave camp on day coronavirus hits organization again", USA Today, March 17, 2020. 
- Bryan Hoch: "For Yanks, a winding road that led to October", mlb.com, September 20, 2020. 
- Bob Nightengale: "Evil Empire is back: Yankees, with Gerrit Cole, are team to beat", USA Today, December 11, 2019. 
- James Wagner: "Yankees Clinch Playoff Berth in Pandemic-Shortened Season", New York Times, September 20, 2020